Popcorn didn't always used to be a thing in Japan. As a matter of fact, when I arrived in 1990 (and for many years afterward) it was one of my please-send-me items for anyone willing to mail me a care package. A couple of years ago, though, something happened and now popcorn is accepted and more or less embraced by the Japanese snack culture. I still don't come across the loose, pop-it-yourself-at-home kernels variety and I hardly ever see microwave popcorn, but pre-popped and already flavored bags, those are out there.
Frito Lay Japan has a popular snack called Mike Popcorn, and it has some of interesting but not entirely surprising flavors. There's butter soy sauce, sweetened soy sauce, and salted seaweed. All quite delicately flavored and delicious in their own way.
Then I ran across shrimp popcorn. I love shrimp and I love popcorn. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is nothing. This savory shrimp-flavored popcorn was divine. It even made me go to the Mike Popcorn website to see what else they had. But I stopped before I got into the different flavors, because I was intrigued with how they're marketing popcorn in Japan.
It seems to touted as a healthy snack. They're pushing the "one bag has two-heads of lettuce worth of fiber" bit. I mean, not to disrespect iceberg lettuce and all, but we all know it's mostly water. You want fiber, let's talk cabbages. Another cute — and very Japanese — idea is the list of different popcorn recipes that are recommended on the site. One of those that feels a little more healthy — but I'm not sure I'd want to try — is called the Fancy Morning Meal Basically, the recipe consists of plain yogurt sprinkled with chia seeds, nuts, fruit (in this case sliced bananas), coconut powder and, yes, you guessed it popcorn.
They don't say, but I'm hoping they're recommending the regular-flavored stuff, not the shrimp-flavored kind.
Photos: Thersa Matsuura